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Only in Nevada. That’s a phrase which applies to many activities. No other State has counties with legal prostitution. No other state has a city which has more hotel rooms at one intersection (Tropicana and Las Vegas Blvd) than the total number of hotel rooms in the entire City of San Francisco. And no other state has made it legal to put people in jail for owing money to a casino.

How can this be possible? If you owe money on a credit card, you can refuse to pay and although your credit will suffer, you won’t go to jail. You can even stop paying your mortgage, and end up losing your home, but you won’t go to jail. However, owe a few bucks to a Nevada casino and you’ll have the District Attorney issuing a warrant for your arrest which will follow you anywhere in the United States and many parts of the civilized world.

The legal trick played by Nevada law involves the conversion of a gambler’s IOU or “marker” to a casino into a “check” from that gambler’s bank account.

In recent years casinos have increasingly urged gamblers to take out markers instead of using their own money to gamble with. A person who plans to gamble a large amount of money would either have to bring lots of cash, or hand over a check, which takes time to clear, or complete a wire transfer into the casino bank. The casino’s try to convince people to not touch their money, and just sign a marker. The marker isn’t actual money, it results in the gambler having access to gaming chips in the dollar amount of the marker. The casino likes to point out that if you win, you just give back the amount you borrowed and keep the profit. If you lose the amount borrowed through the marker, you have to pay the casino the dollar value of the marker, usually within 30 days. Most of the time, the gambler pays the casino and the matter is closed. Sometimes, the gambler doesn’t have the money to make up the amount of the marker, and things quickly go South.¬†Here’s where the “check” fiction stings. As pointed out above, under Nevada law, the marker isn’t a simple IOU, its a check from YOUR bank account. So when the casino deposits that “check” into your account and there are insufficient funds in that account, you just bounced a high dollar check. That’s a felony in Nevada.

That’s how a simple debt between you and a casino can become a felony case. Only in Nevada.

In my next post I’ll explain how a Las Vegas criminal defense lawyer can help in casino marker cases. If you have a marker case or any pending or potential criminal charges, call Gabriel L. Grasso at 702-868-8866.